I’d like to introduce you to the humble lentil. While the lentil has something of a reputation of being a flower-child or hippy, it’s not that alarming or weird. Yes, the lentil is a vegan staple – and is a staple protein source for many people around the world where meat is harder to come by and/or forbidden.
However, the lentil can also be a welcome guest at many a British table without appearing out of place. According to the Book of Genesis, Esau (who was, admittedly, a bit dim-witted) sold his rights as the firstborn son in exchange for stew made from red lentils… which may have had an indirect effect on some of the conflict in the Middle East today, as Esau was the ancestor of some of the Palestinians, while Jacob (who cooked the stew) was the ancestor of the Israelis. It’s surprising the influence the lentil can have!
You will also find lentils at your local Indian takeaway, where they’re called daal or dhal.
The lentil – and others in the legume family, which includes beans of all types and peas as well as the less edible gorse – is a rich source of low-fat protein as well as fibre. Growing lentils and other legumes is a bonus for organic farmers, as the legumes are the only plants that are able to fix nitrogen – absolutely for plant growth – into the soil in a bioavailable form, thus reducing the need to add nitrogen to the soil via fertiliser. Lentils don’t look very appealing on the supermarket shelf, admittedly. They look like orange or brown bits of gravel. But don’t let the looks put you off. Both red and brown lentils are magnificent in the kitchen. They’re even better than dried beans, as they don’t need long soaking times to become soft and mushy. Lentils are cooked by boiling, which turns them into a sort of porridge. However, lentils on their own are a little dull – rather like mashed potato without salt or other seasonings. But this soggy heap of lentil mush is a great basis for a number of tasty meals:
* Fritters – Drain off excess liquid add some egg white and cornflour, plus salt, chilli and onions (optional). Shape into patties and fry lightly on both sides. A good vegan option for barbecues or burgers.
* Dip for vegetables – add olive oil, salt, vinegar or lemon juice, and crushed garlic. Other spices such as chilli, cumin or curry powder can also be added.
* Arab Rabbit. This is like Welsh Rabbit (and its close cousin, English Monkey). Heat some olive oil in a saucepan and fry finely chopped onions until clear. Then add some chopped tomato. When the tomato goes mushy, melt some cheese in the mixture. Add in the mushy boiled lentils, plus some Tabasco sauce and salt. Once it’s bubbling, serve with toast.
Of course, lentils can also be thrown into meat stews as a way of stretching them – no bad thing, considering meat prices – and can also go into any sort of soup. They have the virtue of thickening any soup or stew they’re added to, besides adding to the protein and fibre content of the meal. And, of course, they make a great curry!
Nutritional information: 100 g of lentils contains:
* 60 g of carbohydrate (2 g of which is sugars)
* 31 g of dietary fibre
* 26 g of protein (unsprouted lentils are missing two essential amino acids, but sprouted lentils are a complete protein)
* 7.5 mg of iron – lentils are a better vegetable source of iron than spinach
Lentils are also a rich source of folate and vitamin B1.
Nick Vassilev founded Anyclean, his London based domestic cleaning company, back in 1998. Nick is an expert on cleaning and loves to help people with his cleaning tips, articles and knowledge. If you would like to know more about his cleaning company, please visit http://www.anyclean.co.uk.